Wednesday, November 28, 2012

An Idea for Using Podcast for Your English Class

   Usingpodcast for language class has many advantages. One of the most important features of podcasts is that students can use it outside of class when they feel like doing it.
   I am going to give you an example of using podcast for your English class. The podcast I am going to use here is:

ESL Podcast Episode 169 Describing People (if it doesn't open, click below URL)

  Like many other podcasts in ESL POD website, this podcast contains a short dialogue and explanation by native speakers. English curriculum in my country has specific functions that students are expected to perform in English and among them are describing people or things in English. So, when we cover this communicative function, we can use this podcasts as an assignment.

Let’s say we had a lesson that covered various adjectives describing people’s look such as “attractive, bald, chubby, beautiful, blonde, fat, fit, gorgeous, adorable, slim, skinny, fat, curly, tall, muscular or ordinary.” You might not want to just explain the adjectives in your book; you also want your students to explore many other words that can be found in authentic situation. (Here are more adjectives to describe people’s look) So, after learning some of expressions that you can use to describe people’s appearance, you can have your students to listen to the podcast and find many other adjectives and expressions to describe looks. According to their level of proficiency, you can make some variations such as “listening to the podcast and finding 5 more adjectives from the dialogue and 5 more expressions from the explanations.”  Once they finish their work, you can listen to the podcast once again in your class to check their performance.
Model dialogue used in this podcast
Gilles: Hey, what are you looking at?
Nora: Oh, these? They’re pictures from my trip back home last month.
Gilles: Let’s have a look. So, who’s this?
Nora: That’s my sister and that’s my cousin Keira.
Gilles: Your sister looks nothing like you. You’re fair and she has dark hair and dark eyes. Now, you look much more like your cousin.
Nora: Yeah, that’s true. Keira and I both have heart-shaped faces, thin lips, fat cheeks, and bushy eyebrows . Gorgeous!
Gilles: You don’t give yourself enough credit. Why do you think every one of your guy friends is interested in you? Hey, who’s the little girl?
Nora: Oh, that’s my cousin Adriano’s daughter. She’s seven. She’s very pretty as you can see and has the most beautiful wavy hair. That’s her baby brother who was just born in April.
Gilles: Oh, man, he’s so cute. That pudgy face, curly hair, and big eyes! He’s adorable.
Nora: Yeah, I think he looks just like me.
Gilles: Hmmm…I think I’d better stop complimenting you. It’s going straight to your head.


Sunday, November 18, 2012

Using E-pals for “The Way We Are Project”

When I was young, the way I became interested in English language for the first time was through pen paling with a Canadian friend. The letter we meant here was not emails but real letters. We would write and get letters over a year, which gave me some special feeling of using English. Looking back this feeling was “feeling connected” to the rest of the world.

However, I have been a bit skeptical with using email to be connected to someone you do not know because it could be superficial and does not last long unless you find something interesting enough to keep talking to each other. I thought E-pals was just another site that link you and someone else so that you can send emails and pretend to make a friend for a while. It was not!

The most surprising feature that I found was that there were many global projects going on. The Way We Are is just a kind of the projects. It is an Epals-National Geographics collaborative   project where students will engage in a collaborative learning experience to know a diverse of culture and people of different part of the world. Through email exchanges, students will build friendships and learn about the daily lives and characteristics of the local environment of students who live in another region of the world.

I believe this project could help students to improve their writing skills to exchange information with each other, to develop collaborative skills, and raise sensitivity to other culture while they share the purpose of communication.

I strongly believe motivation is the single most important element of language learning and this kind of projects can provide language learners with something other than just language – being connected to other people using the target language.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Using Animoto for Your Reading Class

A picture is worth of thousand words.

  You may have heard this line many times. But what if the picture is moving? This shows the power of using video clips for your teaching and learning purposes.

As a language teacher, I would like to use Animoto for my pre-reading activity. Have you seen yourself feeling curious about movies after watching a short movie trailer? My idea is to make a trailer for reading. Look at my work first.

(If you can't see the video clip, press here for YouTube link.

I want to use the video clip to check the sequence of story and to encourage students to retell the last part of the story. The video clip was created by based on the text and pictures related to the story with the last part unmentioned. Pictures aid comprehension and recall of texts and students perceive the text more positively when it is presented with relevant pictures (Rathet 1994).
Rathet I. (1994). Engligh by drawing: Making the language lab a center of active learning, TESOL Journal 3 (3) 22-25
 The text I want to use with this video clip I created is here.

While stuck at traffic lights at a busy Sydney intersection, I watched a very elderly, frail couple crossing the road in front of me. The lady was using a walking frame and, with the help of her male companion, was walking rather laboriously across the crosswalk. The concentration was etched on their faces as they tried to beat the light's change to red. When they reached the adjacent footpath, it appeared that the step was too high up for the lady to lift her walking frame, and her companion was too frail to help. At this point the traffic lights turned to green and I could see the distress on the old couple's face. Very near to me, a young guy jumped out of his pickup truck and halted the traffic. At the same time the driver from a big truck raced across the road and lifted them both to the safety of the footpath. There was not a single sign of impatience from the long line of waiting vehicles. In fact, as the good Samaritans got back into their vehicles there was a very loud chorus of congratulatory honks.

Using Voice Thread for Your Language Class

The two Voice Thread tasks that I participated were these.

Zhilli Yao’s Talk about Movies

I believe Voice Thread (VT) can be great discussion tools that interests learners. The purpose of using VT can be to reduce class time devoted to hear all different stories of the students. Suppose you are sitting in a classroom of 30 students. You can not physically let your students tell their own stories. By using VT, you can manage your class time effectively while you make sure that everyone has an equal chance to express their opinion or ideas. One of the effective methods that can be used to measure the others’ understanding is asking to illustrate the understanding or giving examples.

In that sense, the task in Yu Xie’s Language and Culture Classroom was very interesting because she asked everyone give examples based on their understanding about how cultural connotation can vary in terms of symbolic image of animals. By giving my own opinion with the examples, I could elaborate my understanding on the concepts of ‘connotation’ while I become better aware of many examples of cultural connotations about animals.
 Another advantage of VT is that your answer can be more personalized. Online discussions using your typing produce the same format of answers – another text. But when you make comments using voice recording, all answer is unique since no two people have same voice. Using this advantage, Zhlli Yao asked the students to comment about the movie that they saw. Expressing personal experience is one of the most distinct features of Communicative Language Teaching.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

I want a puppy. How about you? - Using ‘bookr’ for your storytelling lesson

Good language learners are eager to find many opportunities for communication. By using learners’ own information or by having them to express their preference for the topics they are familiar with, teachers can motivate them to communicate. For example, everyone has his or her favorite animals or pets. Especially, young learners love animals. Whether they have a pet or not, they certainly have their own preference of pets. Just let them express the idea using pictures since good storybooks mostly have beautiful pictures in them. Here is my sample work. With the beautiful pictures and beautiful ideas, bookr can make the language learning more active and meaningful. Students will be interested in showing both their own ideas on pets and others pet stories.

The lesson objectives can be like these:
1) Pedagogical Objectives: Students will be able to compare more than two animals and express their love for animals.
2) Language Objectives: Students will be able to tell the differences of pets and tell why they love the pet using pictures.

daydreaming vs dreaming by cappuccino_iv
daydreaming vs dreaming, a photo by cappuccino_iv on Flickr.

Friday, November 2, 2012

What's Your Story? - Using Digital Storytelling for Writing Class

Storytelling at West Lothian libraries by Scottish Libraries One of the features of communicative language teaching is the use of authentic material and communication with learners’ own information. Before 21 century, authentic material typically meant realiasuch as pictures, books, magazines or newspapers. However, now, the meaning of authenticity should be redefined since our pictures, books, magazines, and newspapers appear in digital format. How many photos do you have in paper? What about in digital images on your computer? How many tapes recorded with your happy memories do you have? What about movie clips? Using your digital “memories”we can make your story more interesting and vivid.

Digital Storytelling means using digital tools to tell stories. Like traditional .storytelling, most digital stories deal with something interesting to your listeners. However, unlike the traditional way, digital stories usually contain some mixture of computer-based images, text, recorded audio narration, video clips and/or music. (learn more)

Now, what is your story? We want it fun and authentic. Here is a tip to make your writing class more interestingly using digital storytelling techniques.

Lesson Topic: My Precious Thing

Aims: introducing his or her most precious thing in life with story

Introduction Step
1) Think of precious thing in your life
2) Choose one thing you want to introduce to class
3) Bring as much information as possible related to the precious thing

Development Step
1) Answer these questions:
What is it? / How did you get it? / What it looks like? / Why do you think it is special? / How long have you had it?
2) Put the answers into one paragraph and read it.
3) Decide what information you need to show it effectively and interestingly.
4) Polish your draft and think about the way you present it with the pictures, text, or video clips. (the teacher plays the consultant role here)
5) Record the story with pictures or videos along with the text you want to emphasize. (Students can use video editing programs such as Animotoor Windows Moviemaker. To learn more about them, click here. )
6) Show off your“digital storytelling” work to the class either online or offline.

Discuss which story is the most interesting. (You can upload it on YouTube to see which one gets the most recommendations.)
By making a digital story about the most precious thing, students can have another treasure that they will keep.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

How to use a Serious Game for Learning: focusing on the Garbage Game


   A serious game is a game designed for a primary purpose other than pure entertainment. The "serious" adjective is generally prepended to refer to products used by industries like defense, education, scientific exploration, health care, emergency management, city planning, engineering, religion, and politics. (source: Wikipedia)
Garbage game is a typical kind of serious game, focusing on environmental issues including recycle and reuse. The game contains large amount of information with various graphics. Focusing on playing the game, learners will have to make decisions based on the information provided with graphics. The game is inherently educational. However, what makes this game notable is its value for enhancing the learners’ reading skill: the game process requires active reading, which is why I chose the game. I have played the game only twice but I can clearly know how the game could help many learners in both their language learning and environmental education.

Active reading is an interactive process that helps readers to achieve better comprehension and recall of their reading materials. These are the features of active reading that you can use while you playing the garbage game.

1. Applying Prior Knowledge
2. Critical Response
3. Making Prediction
4. Problem-solving
5. Summarize  -- summarizing can be used as an assessment, too.

Language learning objectives could be
1. Familiarize the vocabulary related to the environment such as reuse, landfill, plastic bottle, unsorted garbage, recyclable, discard, residential waste.
2. Read and reflect on their waste habit to make green campaign.
3. Discuss and make UCC to change people’s waste habits using information given in the game.

How to Assess the Achievement - Using Contents as a Text
 The game contains vast amount of information regarding dispoal of garbage and the learners should make decision step by step. Even if a leaner did not get the answer, he or she can not miss the explanation about the correct answer while playing the game. So, it makes sense to test some of the knowledge they gained during the game.
The format of evaluation might be:
1) multiple choice questions or T/F questions
2) writing a paragraph on garbage issues
3) making summary of the most interesting facts from the game
4) evaluating group work - UCC or posters - for garbage campaign
5) debate based on the information from the game